Switch To No-Huddle Offense Provided Spark
Facing a 14-point deficit on Sunday, the Redskins’ offense pushed the tempo by deciding not to huddle and had Robert Griffin III call the plays at the line of scrimmage.
BY ZAC BOYER
ASHBURN – Mike Shanahan believes the Redskins caught the Raiders by surprise when they went to a no-huddle, hurry-up offense while trailing by 14 points late in the first quarter of their eventual 24-14 victory on Sunday.
The Redskins rattled off eight plays – four run, four pass – to move from their own 20-yard line with 3:06 left in the quarter to the Raiders’ 4-yard line when the quarter expired. They huddled up for the start of the second quarter and couldn’t finish the drive, settling for a 25-yard field goal by John Potter.
In all, the Redskins ran 18 plays without a huddle, sprinkling the tactic into the game plan throughout the rest of the game. They had run 16 plays without a huddle over the first three games, including 11 in the last two drives of the season-opening loss to the Eagles.
“I think we got them a little bit by surprise, and I think it got the momentum going in our direction,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes you have to come up with different packages like that and use it when you think you need to, and at that time I thought we needed it.”
First-half deficits bogged down the Redskins in their losses to the Eagles and the Packers earlier this season, and while they increased the tempo of their offense to try to trim their opponents’ leads, they often did so while huddling for the play call.
The pace made it difficult for the Raiders to substitute on defense, which wore players down.
“It helped a lot, I guess, just because, even though the hurry-up is kind of tiring from an offensive standpoint, it also tires out the defense, so when both of you are tired it kind of comes down to who wants it more,” running back Alfred Morris said Monday. “I felt like as a whole, we wanted it more than them.”
Shanahan said the team has practiced some of the no-huddle principles since training camp opened. Three weeks ago, after the Eagles used their up-tempo, no-huddle offense to run down the Redskins’ defense, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said such a strategy clearly has an effect on the defense.
“I think there’s an advantage to it, but it’s not something you do just to do,” Kyle Shanahan said at the time. “You’ve got to work at it year-round, and you’ve got to execute your offense. … It’s something that if you can fit what your scheme is into it, it’ll always give you a bonus, but it is sometimes hard to fit a scheme into just a hurry-up tempo.”
Robert Griffin III told reporters after the game he has run versions of a no-huddle offense since high school, and showed little difficulty in relaying the plays to his teammates even though the Redskins were on the road.
He even changed the call at the line of scrimmage on the final snap of the first quarter, first walking left to right down his offensive line to tell them of the modifications before telling Morris. He then walked over to receiver Pierre Garçon, who was in the left slot, and Garçon told receiver Leonard Hankerson, split wide left, the new call.
Griffin called for the snap with two seconds remaining in the quarter, then rolled out to his left and found Garçon in the flat for a two-yard gain.
“It’s hard in that type of environment if you’re changing plays, and when he did change plays, we communicated it successfully,” Mike Shanahan said Monday. “More importantly, I think that when you catch somebody by surprise, you got a chance to gain a little momentum – and that’s what we did.”
➤ A version of this story appears in Tuesday’s edition of The Free Lance-Star.